PHOENIX, Arizona, March 19, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Paul Petersen, the former auditor for Arizona’s Maricopa County found guilty in Utah, Arizona and Arkansas of running an illegal adoption scheme, has now been sentenced in both Arkansas and Arizona. Utah’s sentencing date has been delayed.
An Arizona judge sentenced Peterson to five years in prison, to run consecutively with the six years in prison judgment in Arkansas. Petersen faces 11 years in prison so far.
Petersen’s Utah sentencing date, earlier set for Monday of next week, has been postponed until further notice.
Petersen pleaded guilty to felony offenses in all three states in the case: Medicaid fraud in Arizona, human smuggling and communications fraud charges in Utah, and federal charges of harboring immigrants for profit in Arkansas.
Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes said in a prepared statement he was pleased a strong message is being sent to human smugglers and traffickers.
“It’s vital to send a message to those who would even think about exploiting and defrauding vulnerable parents and their children,” Reyes said.
“Although no court can make the victims whole or undo the damage Petersen has caused, this strong sentence represents a measure of justice for the many people Petersen exploited and harmed, both in the United States and in the Marshall Islands.
“This also demonstrates the power of collaborating at the state and federal level and across multiple states in investigations and prosecutions,” Reyes said.
“We look forward to seeing Petersen sentenced in Utah in the coming weeks.”
Petersen was charged after officials learned he had arranged travel to the United States for pregnant Marshall Island women, and set up adoptions for their babies.
An international compact between the United States and the Marshall Islands prohibits Marshallese citizens from traveling to the United States for purposes of adoption. Petersen later admitted that he knowingly transported Marshallese women into the United States, knowing they were not United States citizens, and did so to facilitate adoptions.
Petersen also admitted he did not inform the American couples seeking to adopt the babies about the international restrictions on Marshallese adoptions, and that he omitted this information to obtain the adoption payments, court documents show.